A Temporary Historical past of Responsive Internet Design

Web sites haven’t at all times been as adaptable as they’re at this time. For modern designers, “responsivity” is likely one of the most important defining elements of an excellent design. In spite of everything, we’re now catering to a bunch of customers who steadily soar between cell and desktop units with various display sizes. 

Nevertheless, the shift to responsive design didn’t occur in a single day. For years, we’ve been tweaking the idea of “responsive internet design” to finally attain the stage we’re at at this time. 

Immediately, we’re going to take a more in-depth have a look at the historical past of responsive internet design.

The place Did Internet Design Start?

When the primary web sites have been initially created, nobody was anxious about responsivity throughout a spread of screens. All websites have been designed to suit the identical templates, and builders didn’t spend lots of time on ideas like design, format, and typography.  

Even when the broader adoption of CSS know-how started, most builders didn’t have to fret a lot about adapting content material to completely different display sizes. Nevertheless, they nonetheless discovered a couple of methods to work with completely different monitor and browser sizes.

Liquid Layouts

The main two layout options out there to builders within the early days have been fixed-width, or liquid format. 

With fixed-width layouts, the design was extra more likely to break in case your monitor wasn’t the very same decision because the one the location was designed on. You can see an example here

Alternatively, liquid layouts, coined by Glenn Davis, have been thought of one of many first revolutionary examples of responsive internet design. 

Liquid layouts may adapt to completely different monitor resolutions and browser sizes. Nevertheless, content material may additionally overflow, and textual content would steadily break on smaller screens. 

Decision-Dependent Layouts

In 2004, a blog post by Cameron Adams launched a brand new methodology of utilizing JavaScript to swap out stylesheets based mostly on a browser window measurement. This system grew to become often called “resolution-dependent layouts”. Despite the fact that they required extra work from builders, resolution-dependent layouts allowed for extra fine-grained management over the location’s design. 

The resolution-dependent format mainly functioned as an early model of CSS breakpoints, earlier than they have been a factor. The draw back was builders needed to create completely different stylesheets for every goal decision and guarantee JavaScript labored throughout all browsers.

With so many browsers to think about on the time, jQuery grew to become more and more well-liked as a strategy to summary the variations between browser choices away.

The Rise of Cell Subdomains

The introduction of ideas like resolution-dependent designs was occurring at about the identical time when many cell units have been changing into extra internet-enabled. Firms have been creating browsers for his or her smartphones, and builders all of a sudden wanted to account for these too.

Although cell subdomains aimed to supply customers the very same capabilities they’d get from a desktop web site on a smartphone, they have been solely separate functions. 

Having a cell subdomain, although advanced, did have some advantages, similar to permitting builders to particularly goal search engine marketing to cell units, and drive extra site visitors to cell web site variations. Nevertheless, on the similar time, builders then wanted to handle two variations of the identical web site.

Again on the time when Apple had solely simply launched its first iPad, numerous internet designers have been nonetheless reliant on this old style and clunky technique for enabling entry to an internet site on each machine. Within the late 2000s, builders have been typically reliant on a variety of tips to make cell websites extra accessible. For example, even easy layouts used the max-width: 100% trick for versatile pictures.

Fortuitously, the whole lot started to alter when Ethan Marcotte coined the term “Responsive Web Design” on A List Apart. This text drew consideration to John Allsopp’s exploration of internet design architectural ideas, and paved the way in which for all-in-one web sites, able to performing simply as nicely on any machine. 

A New Age of Responsive Internet Design

Marcotte’s article launched three essential parts builders would wish to think about when making a responsive web site: fluid grids, media queries, and versatile pictures. 

Fluid Grids

The idea of fluid grids introduced the concept web sites ought to have the ability to undertake quite a lot of versatile columns that develop or shrink relying on the present measurement of the display. 

On cell units, this meant introducing one or two versatile content material columns, whereas desktop units may normally present extra columns (on account of better area). 

Versatile Photographs

Versatile pictures launched the concept, like content material, pictures ought to have the ability to develop or shrink alongside the fluid grid they’re positioned in. As talked about above, beforehand, builders used one thing referred to as the “max-width” trick to allow this. 

For those who have been holding a picture in a container, then it may simply overflow, notably if the container was responsive. Nevertheless, in case you set the “max-width” to 100%, the picture simply resizes with its guardian container. 

Media Queries

The concept of “media queries” referred to the CSS media queries, launched in 2010 however not broadly adopted till formally launched as a W3 suggestion 2 years later. Media queries are primarily CSS guidelines triggered based mostly on choices like media kind (print, display, and so forth), and media options (top, width, and so forth). 

Although they have been easier on the time, these queries allowed builders to primarily implement a easy form of breakpoint – the form of instruments utilized in responsive design at this time.  Breakpoints check with when web sites change their format or model based mostly on the browser window or machine width.

Viewport Meta tags have to be used typically to make sure media queries work in the way in which at this time’s builders count on. 

The Rise of Cell-First Design

Since Marcotte’s introduction of Responsive Web Design, builders have been engaged on new methods to implement the concept as successfully as potential. Most builders now break up into two classes, based mostly on whether or not they take into account the wants of the desktop machine consumer first, or the wants of the cell machine consumer. The development is more and more accelerating in the direction of the latter. 

When designing an internet site from scratch in an age of mobile-first shopping, most builders imagine that mobile-first is the best choice. Cell designs are sometimes a lot easier, and extra minimalist, which matches lots of the traits of present internet design.

Taking the cell first route means assessing the wants of the web site from a cell perspective first. You’d write your kinds usually, utilizing breakpoints when you begin creating desktop and pill layouts. Alternatively, in case you took the desktop-first method, you would wish to continuously adapt it to smaller units together with your breakpoint selections.

Exploring the Way forward for Responsive Internet Design

Responsive internet design nonetheless isn’t good. There are numerous websites on the market that also fail to ship the identical unimaginable expertise throughout all units. What’s extra, new challenges proceed to emerge on a regular basis, like determining learn how to design for brand spanking new units like AR headsets and smartwatches. 

Nevertheless, it’s honest to say we’ve come a great distance because the early days of internet design. 


Featured picture via Pexels.


The put up A Brief History of Responsive Web Design first appeared on Webdesigner Depot.

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